As you are all no doubt aware, with the coming of Beltane, Spring has arrived in Rhy'Din! And where better to enjoy the slow creep of warm weather and merry foliage that this delightful season has to offer than in the Southern Glen? As the light of the evenings grows longer and the sun starts to refuse to go to bed on time, there can be little doubt that Winter is definitely losing her ice-tight grip on the world for the months to come. Of all the myriad folks who wander to and fro within this realm, I could think of no one better to spend a Spring evening with than Lilliana McClae, Rhy'Din's resident gypsy witch and fire-tongued charmer. An ever present sight in the city, it is rare to see the flame-haired witch without a smile, and the question simply must be asked ... how does she stay so cheery all the time?
Direct as ever, Lilliana has an answer ready on the tip of that smooth tongue. "A-ah. Well, I don' think I've e'er heard someone pu' i' quit'e like tha', bu' I s'pose I can' say i's unt'rue. As fer m'smiles, i' jus' comes nat'ural, less muscles involved than frownin'... or i's jus' I've go' a secre'. Ya' never know." And there is that dimpled, cat-eating-canary grin that anyone who has ever met this incorrigible woman will be very familiar with. Does she have a secret? Is it clean, or delightfully rumpled, like bedsheets after a good night? "Tha', m'dear, depends on the person."
As the daylight begins to fade into dusk, it casts golden rays over the vardo which is Ms McClae's home in the Southern Glen. Nestled in a leafy glade, beside the running waters of one of the many streams that criss-cross the forests, surrounded on three sides by the work of loving hands manifested in neatly kept gardens of herbs and flowers, this seems the perfect spot for a wanderer to put down roots. It truly is no wonder that Ms McClae chose it for her very own.
Her vardo - a horse-drawn caravan favoured by the more traditional gypsies - is a riot of colour and extravagance, not at all unlike the ineffable Ms McClae herself. Intricate carvings adorn both inside and out, each hand-painted in vibrant shades of green, gold, red, and yellow. The horse that once drew it is back with the clan from which Lilliana comes, and the vardo is settling now into its stationary life, each wheel adorned with burgeoning clumps of greenery. Within is a space small, but homely, and filled with ingenius hiding places for the necessities of life. Even the bunk, while unhidden, occupies a bare minimum of space within the vardo, set over cupboards that hold all manner of personal effects.
Some part of this beautifully structured inner space is still in some disarray, certainly in part due to an unfortunate accident of the magical kind which is known to have struck several of the city's citizens over the past month. Indeed, many of you will have encountered the child Suliss'urn, or perhaps you met the regressed Winchester brothers while they were recovering from this backfire. It is still uncertain what, actually happened, and it seems even Lilliana McClae is without a complete explanation.
"Well, I'll t'ell ya' firs' i' wasn' any kind o' fun," the witch smiles. "I'd been b'hind the bar when i' happened t'st'rike me. Thankfully I had friends an' fellows 'round me tha' weren' only t'rust'worthy, bu' percept'ive. Unt'il I was old 'nough t' bounce around on m'own. I st'ayed w' Mr. Tag Sent'ry an' his darlin' lil' girl."
If it wasn't any fun for Ms McClae, one can only imagine how little fun her brother, Brishen Garridan, was having. It is understood by the Post
that not only was his sister regressed in age, his wife was as well, leaving him to attempt to look after both them, and his own baby son. For some, it lasted only a day or so; for others, it has plagued them for weeks on end. Lilliana is one of the latter party, and given her antics of late, I was curious to know if she was still feeling the effects of this magical mix-up.
" ... i' was weeks o' slowly recoverin' m'memories an' m'years," she explains, tiredly plucking at her wild mane of curls as she speaks. "E'ery mornin' i' was like wakin' w' a vivid dream tha' wouldn' lose ya' durin' the day. Event'ually through m'own observat'ions, the key bein' tha' the world wasn' agin' w' me, I realized somethin' was amiss.... Thankfully tha's all over though. Eye openin' as i' was, ya' wouldn' cat'ch me volunt'eerin' fer anythin' like tha' in the fut'ure."
Luckily for us, Lilliana is now fully back to herself, and she will be ready and fit to pass on the Beltane Crown to the next Queen of the May, as voted for by you, the citizens of Rhy'Din, at the opening of the Beltane festivities on Saturday, 30th May. Anyone who was there last year will well remember the tension mounting as the days dragged on to Beltane, and the explosion of delight from all the crowd when Lilliana was named as their May Queen. But for someone who clearly has one foot firmly in the realm of the mythical and marvellous, what does Beltane mean to Lilliana, and more importantly, what does the May Queen signify?
"Beltane is..." She pauses, giving me plenty of time to make certain my dictaphone is still on, not wanting to miss one word of this. "One o' m' favorit'e t'imes o' the year, simply b'cause we're all tha' much closer t' the blaze o' summer an' the promise o' evenin's st'ill ho' w' sunligh' t'warm ya' as ya' sleep. Springs here, an' the May Queen, well. She's a symbol o' tha' promise ya' see. She's an embodimen' o' the Goddess, the energy o' the world's t'urnin' season, the firs' t'rue harold o' spring. A lady o' flowers an' the fert'ile magic o' the comin' seasons. T'radit'ion calls her the maiden, bu' in a lady's hear', there's always some small par' o' us tha's a maiden, an' always a May Queen in her own righ'. All she needs t'be complet'e is her green knigh'."
And who could forget Lilliana's chosen Green Man? Never one to do less than stand out in a crowd, Lord Z'ev Zayveon has been a near constant presence in Ms McClae's life for more than a year now, following an interesting period of courtship which is believed to have begun during a tattooing incident. Neither is inclined to comment, clearly believing that their private affairs are none of our business. As a reporter who thrives on gossip, I am utterly unmanned by this attitude. As a woman, though, I say ... right on!
Back to basics, though, and I cannot resist prodding just a little at Lilliana's smooth tongue. She is a regular face behind the bar of the Red Dragon Inn, and her antics with themed nights have ensnared many, including yours truly. There is nothing malicious in these pieces of fun, and I will freely admit that there is plenty to gain in playing along with the flame-haired witch's flights of fancy ... provided someone is there to keep you from making a complete
fool of yourself. But with so many talents at her disposal, what drew Lilliana to the near goddess-like vocation of tending bar at the city's most notorious watering hole?
"I's no secre' m'from a family o' wagon t'ot'in' vagabonds, an' t'be such some par' o' ya' needs t' love people. An' honest'ly I love people. Their faces, the unique lines tha' make'm up, the vibrance in their souls, the st'ories they have t't'ell, even if they always don'. Somet'imes the easies' thing in the world t'do is pour someone a drink an' give'm a genial once o'er an' ya' have yerself a new friend..." Is the reporter blushing? I don't think she's blushing. Please, Lilliana, please
don't mention the Love Potion Mead. "Plus, e'ery gypsy worth their sal' knows how t'make a proper drink."
And here we come to the mystery of Lilliana's background. Though she bears the name 'McClae', this flame-haired witch is quick to assert that she is a full-blooded Garridan also. The roving band of gypsies into which she was born are known collectively as the Garridan clan, but it is understood that not all those who bear the name Garridan share blood with the families who make up the core of the 'wagon toting vagabonds', as Lilliana puts it. Her mother, Melina, is the clan's leader, their wise woman or witch, and it would seem that, as her only daughter, Lilliana is set to follow in her mother's footsteps some day in the distant future. Why, then, did she choose to put down roots here, rather than continue travelling with her fellows?
"There's a thrill an' a wanderlus' tha' comes w' i'. Ship capt'ains could t'ell ya' the same thing. They've go' a t'ast'e fer the life, go' a love o' the advent'ure an' the newness ya' find roamin' Goddess' count'ry. I've go' years ahead o' me where I'll be bound t' m'family's wagons as their wit'ch when m'Ma passes, les' she chooses t'brave nat'ure an' t'ry fer another daught'er. So fer now, while I've go' t'ime an' the pat'ience t' no' list'en t'o the wanderlus', I've decided t' t'ry an' have a bi' o' a life a' wha' any t'raveler will t'ell ya' is the bigges', mos' diverse hub o' a cit'y in nearly all the realms."
It is good for us all that she did so, and it is not hard to imagine that perhaps the choice of her brother to settle down here may have influenced Lilliana's choice of city just a little. However that may have come about, it cannot be said that Ms McClae is anything but a highly volatile individual, deeply attractive to all, be they friend, foe, or lover. In a city of constantly shifting love matches and not so loving break ups, it would seem that Lilliana has the right idea when it comes to being courted. Her significant other is an eight-foot dragonman, but even if that were not so, she is confident of her ability to keep unwanted attentions at bay.
" ... I've had m'share. Bu' usually if swee' t'alkin' an' charmin' doesn' ge' the poin' across, a swif' kick t'the dangle usually helps. There's plent'y o' lovely creat'ures roamin' 'bou' the cit'y, no need fer a real man t'be beggin' an' pest'erin' a' ya' when yer clearly no' int'erest'ed."
Anyone who needing anatomical references as to where 'the dangle' is, please ask at Riverview Clinic or the Shambles Clinic, and have yourself admitted into psychiatric care. I hear strait-jackets are coming in shades of hot pink this season.
However, this reference to physical violence seems a little coarse from Lilliana, especially when you take into account the sheer weight of power she holds at her fingertips. No one could look into those whirling, amber-hued eyes and not believe her when she says there is magic in her blood. What makes her even more impressive is the stunning control she has over that power - control she demonstrated herself as having even when she first came into this power.
"I' means responsibilit'y above all else, bu' tha' doesn' mean I'm no' human an' have an error from t'ime t' t'ime in judgemen', an' I've made my penance fer such. Bein' given a gif' tha' others don' have means i's mean' t'be shared... Like a paint'er's grea' canvases, or a farmer's mouth wat'erin' harves's. One can' keep such brilliance fer themselves alone."
A truly altruistic view, and very welcome from a woman who could, in all probability, incinerate me on the spot if I probe too deeply into her private life. Suffice it to say, I have little left to ask, but for an enquiry as to what the future holds for Lilliana McClae. With Brishen married and a new father, can we expect similar from his fiery sister?
"I'm no' scared o' becomin' an' old maid, if tha's wha' yer askin'." She laughs, that full, rich laugh that can often be heard when she is in company. "Bu' yes, I wan' children o' m'own someday, as fer a husband though... Well. I s'pose he'd need t'be okay w' the idea of his wife possibly bein' bound t' the Garridan Caravan unt'il her dyin' day. Unt'il I know fer sure, tha's the fut'ure I plan fer." She's smiling as she speaks, and I don't get the impression that she is saddened by the thought of being alone right now. The future is unpredictable, and who knows? Maybe a certain dragonman might get down on one talon and invite her to be his wife one of these days.
The evening is fading into night, and the interview is over, but Lilliana has one last pearl of wisdom to pass on to all those who might be interested in it. For a woman who grabs life by 'the dangle' and dances with it until the dawn licks the sky, there is age-old wisdom in those eyes, and a mature grasp of the realities of the heart that is truly touching, even through the wide tilt of her smile.
"Love deeply, dream t'ruly. Live yer life t' the fulles', b'cause ya' ne'er know wha' ya' migh' miss come the morrow. "
Wise words, indeed.
(Lilliana McClae will be passing on the May Queen's mantle to the next incumbant on the evening of Saturday, May 30th, and will be available, as ever, during all three nights of the Beltane Festival.)